Preparation, Innovation and Speed: Lessons I Learned About Technology Solutions from a Race Car Driver
by DJ Eshelman, on Feb 16, 2015 4:42:38 PM
Recently I was asked to define GTRI as a company. I feel confident providing an answer, but before I get to that I’d like to share some takeaways from our recent “Sales Kickoff.” This is the yearly event that GTRI holds to gather its teams and come together. Since GTRI has resources all over the U.S., this is a significant event.
In addition to keynote speakers from Cisco, NetApp and Citrix, we were honored to have Derek Daly as a keynote speaker. The former racing driver and well known broadcaster and writer spoke to us about several key concepts.
Imagine, if you will, speed as a core competency. Picture going 200 miles per hour being considered a hazard because it is TOO SLOW. This is the kind of wakeup call we face in the technology industry. Without the proper focus, preparation and creative approach, it’s not that you’ll be left behind…you won’t even reach the track.
Mr. Daly showed three photos that were very memorable to me:
- The first photo was of a team at the pole position, standing ready behind their car, at ease and ready to race…and win.
- The second showed a different team that was still messing with the car a bit, but surely it would be ready by the time the flag dropped.
- The third photo showed a team at the back of the pack. This car was still dismantled, being frantically worked on. No doubt it would be left behind.
It’s a typical racing pattern of racing – the TEAM that is prepared (from the driver to the pit crew) wins the race. So preparation = winning!
Another concept from Mr. Daly that stuck with me was the idea that “innovation violates tradition.” The analogy in racing is that companies that take the risk of reinventing themselves win more. For example, putting the engine in the back of the car sounded crazy at first, but it started winning races. Now all the engines are in the back!
Finally, Mr. Daly talked about the Five Factors of Fast, which I’d summarize like this:
- A Company only becomes fast when enough people in it become fast.
- Get comfortable being uncomfortable.
- A “To Do” list is good, a “To STOP” list is even better.
- Make sure you are doing the RIGHT THINGS as opposed to do doing THINGS RIGHT.
- You don’t decide your future, you decide your habits, and your habits decide your future.
So what does all this – winning (e.g., being best in class), innovation, and the Five Factors of Fast – have to do with GTRI?
In the past, I would have categorized GTRI as a “sales” organization – fulfilling orders quickly and effectively and giving the customer exactly what they ordered on time. In other words, we were really good at what we did, but we knew we needed to take some risk to get better. So we transformed the company into a solutions integrator – forming relationships and growing the solution base for customers. This is significant because few companies I know of have effectively transformed themselves in this manner but it is exactly the kind of innovative thinking that Mr. Daly was talking about.
GTRI wants to engage with its customers to find innovative and industry leading ways to serve them. This may seem obvious, but when you really think about it many companies today simply exist to fulfill an order with no regard as to if it is the right choice for you. GTRI has grown as a company because we have been intentional about listening to our customers and making the right recommendations, even if the product doesn’t fit with the latest promotion. We are focused on being your business partner, and focused on the long term.
GTRI has also made huge steps and investments in the area of Professional Services with Operational Excellence. I can speak quite a bit to this, since it is my primary charge at GTRI. As much as it seems odd to say it, I am an investment. And I’m not alone. GTRI has begun to employ some of the top industry leaders in several focus areas. The result is that GTRI is now seen as a fast-moving and industry leading company. We use a services methodology that is compatible with the other leaders in the industry, meaning we can very easily be compared at a national level with these leaders.
I back up these statements thanks to my time with Citrix Consulting Services, and observing both the similarities in process and also how we approach customer satisfaction. GTRI’s ISO certification process is met or exceeded consistently because we have such a relentless focus on the customer. We do the right things, in other words, rather than just being focused on doing things right. I’m not saying it’s unique, but I believe our approach is innovative in that we have made this up-front investment in industry leaders knowing that it will help our customers win.
Best in Class
The resonating theme at GTRI is “Relentless Commitment.” That is easy enough to say, but making it a reality has a few implications. Our CEO Greg Byles had a few things to say about that at the Sales Kickoff.
We want to first be #1 in our customer’s mind. We want to be #1 in our vendor’s minds. We want to do this by simply: beginning with the end in mind. Whatever technology solutions we are engaged in providing to our customers, we simply want to be Best in Class.
What Relentless Commitment means for our customers is that if we recommend a technology solution, not only do we believe it is the best for you, but we know we are the best to deliver it. Whether that be our industry-leading relationship with Cisco and Splunk, our top regional relationship with Citrix, or the intensely customer-focused approach to storage with NetApp and EMC – or any of our trusted vendors – we want to be able to look you in the eye and let you know that we will sleep well tonight, knowing we steered you in the right direction and helped you get there quickly every step of the way.
As I mentioned earlier, the pace of technology and business today requires that companies be fast. In order to be fast, they must be prepared. Sometimes fast is equated with moving ahead without a plan. But as Mr. Daly’s racing analogy shows, that isn’t the best option. I think the Five Factors of Fast he spoke of are a good checklist for making sure you are prepared, and I’m going to work with my team to make sure we embody these factors.
So, to answer the question posed in the beginning, how would I define GTRI as a company? I’d say it is an innovative technology solution provider that strives to be best in class through thoughtful preparation and relentless commitment to our customers and their needs!